Monday, May 08, 2006

Why Doesn't Water Burn?

Every first year chemistry student knows that water is composed of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. That’s what that “H-two-oh” thing is all about.

In our chemistry classes, we also learned that hydrogen is just about the most combustible thing out there. You know the story of the Hindenburg and “Oh the humanity” and all that.

And we also learned that three things are needed to create a fire: fuel, oxygen, and heat.

And any third grader knows that you can put out a fire by pouring water over it.

Waitammint. Am I the only one to see a paradox here? You put out a fire by pouring two-thirds of the formula for fire on it? Gee, it seems like water should be a tinderbox, just waiting for a match to turn it into a lighter-than air blazing inferno.

What gives? Well, if you just sorta mixed up the hydrogen and oxygen then, yeah, you’d have a ball of gas that’s ready to light up like a Kuwait oil field. But that’s not what water is. The hydrogen and oxygen form together at the molecular  level.

In a union that is only fully understood by God, atoms can bond together to form something completely different — something that didn’t exist before. Something that that has absolutely no characteristics of the original raw materials.

God allows us to use electrolysis to break the hydrogen and oxygen apart. But He bonds them together so tightly that it usually requires more energy to break them up than what is yielded in fuel. When God sticks things together, He generally doesn’t mess around.

In the book of Second Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tells us that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature”. The implication is that we are made into a new species, literally something that never existed before, something that has no characteristics of the original raw material.

I guess God knows what He’s doing. After all, He can take the most perfect fuel in the universe and turn it into a pretty good fire extinguisher.


Anonymous said...

Anyone who uses the word 'GOD' so much in their talk about science, should leave the talking to real scientists.

janitorjim said...

Hey anonymous--

I sense that you believe that "real" scientists don't believe in G-d? Ben Stein has a new movie you might want to see. By the way, have you found that missing link that you've been looking for since Darwin was a pup?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous is right, although you did answer the question scientifically and accurately, you should probably cut down on the whole God thing.

goodguy25 said...

You should probably cut down on the “you should probably cut down on the whole God thing” thing.
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and beliefs. For the same reason that those who choose the “whole God thing” cannot prove the basic elements, or anything else for that matter (i.e. energy plasma from the Big Bang that eventually resulted in the formation of the basic elements) were created by God, those who choose not to buy into the “whole God thing” cannot disprove it either. There is no empirical measurable data on either side of the issue.
The one thing that can be proved is the reaction that converts matter into other forms, such as energy (E=MC²), or the chemistry responsible for combining and/or breaking down elements into other elements or compounds. Who or what is/was responsible is an entirely separate matter.
Who cares???? Oh, that’s right, you do. Maybe the question you might want to consider is why you feel so strongly about the subject in the first place that you have to suggest others lay off the “whole God thing”. Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

I believe you just got your butt handed to you other anonymous's

Unknown said...

^Scientists can make water burn.

Do your research next time, bub

Tracy Reed said...

Indeed, "God" has nothing to do with any of this. And the covalent bond between hydrogen and oxygen is very well understood. This whole post reeks of nuttery.

Feyn+Dandy said...

It's a good question and sounds like the type of excellent question a bright child would ask. It's just a damn shame that another child who thinks he knows what he's talking about has decided to turn around and attempt an answer. I would be embarrassed for the writer if I weren't so annoyed. Since when does "I know absolutely nothing about the workings of the natural world" translate into "God is awesome possum." The premise of the writer's attempted answer to the question is among the stupidest things I've ever heard. "I have two H's and an O, why isn't the O doing its job?" Maybe it's because the behavior of a system is not a function of only its constituent parts but also of the way those parts are put together. Just maybe. It's like saying, "I have here this pile of silicon, phosphorous and boron, why isn't this damn computer working? I commend the writer on the question but implore him to leave the answer to someone who is not lacking the ability for rational thought. Also pouring water onto certain fires does not put them out, it actually spreads the flames (Thank you intro level chem lab).